Meet seven other extended tag families

The rundown

There are many types, or “families,” of tags available to organize your content. The most common are form, subject, and audience. But those aren’t exclusive. Others include:

  • Structure
  • Tone
  • Intent
  • Level
  • Status
  • Attitude
  • Relationship

Other tag families deserve a second look

Earlier I wrote on tag frameworks that use sentences to give structure to taxonomies. These sentences rely on types, or “families,” of tags. My favorite three are:

  • Form
  • Subject
  • Audience

In a sentence, they become “This is a (form) about (subject) for (audience).” Filling in the blanks per piece of content helps me focus what I create. Meanwhile, using the same sets of tags keeps groups of content aligned.

But the form/subject/audience framework doesn’t fit all projects. There’s also:

Structure

What framework is this artifact organized with? Knowing this might help you compose your thoughts — but don’t get too stuck on form. Structure tags are nouns that tell people how to expect information to be organized.

Both a FAQ and an interview can use Q&A structures. Case studies can follow a challenge/solution/takeaway format … but don’t have to.

Multiples are possible, but discouraged. If you need to assign more than one structure tag to an artifact, then maybe it’s really a series of artifacts that work together.

Examples: FAQ, long-form read, case study, listicle, inverted pyramid.

Tone

What voice are you writing/recording with? Are you trying to engage with humor or get to the point? Sure, this family of adjectives makes assumptions about how people feel. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Examples: humorous, dry, reassuring, inspiring, assertive

Intent

Usually an internal family, “intent” tags are nouns that describe why the content exists. A product’s feature list, for example, helps people quickly absorb its highlights. A survey report helps people make sense of data.

The way to define “intent” tags is to ask a question: What do you hope to provide (or gain) from this?

Examples: affirmation, announcement, tutorial

Level

How much do you assume the audience knows about the topic at hand? Content for different skill levels should contain different approaches to their subject matter. For example, documentation for newcomers will need more explanation of acronyms and concepts.

Audience examples: basic, intermediate, skilled, advanced, professional

Content examples: intro, general, advanced

Status

In what stage of production is the content? This internal family helps sort content as it moves through its lifecycle.

Examples: draft, pending review, published, archived

Attitude

Sometimes we write for people in a certain state of mind. For example, if they’re reluctant, do you need to empathize or persuade? If they’re in a hurry, should you skip humor and get straight to business? Are they curious about new ideas, reluctant to accept other points of view, or do they crave affirmation of their beliefs? Are they coming into this feeling cheated? Baffled? Excited?

These adjectives are usually for internal use only, often when planning or drafting content.

Examples: angry, bored, cheerful, desperate, energized

Relationship

How does this item fit among its fellows? Another internal group of nouns, these tags help keep large collections of content organized.

Examples: sidebar, update, next-generation, replacement, next, previous

Other families in practice

Different combinations of these tag families work better than others.

This is arranged as a (structure) to benefit people with (level) know-how.

  • This is arranged as a FAQ to benefit people with basic know-how.
  • This is arranged as an abstract to benefit people with advanced know-how.
  • This is arranged as a long-form read to benefit people with intermediate know-how.

Looking for something (tone)? Try this (structure).

  • Looking for something funny? Try this light read.
  • Looking for something inspiring? Try this announcement.
  • Looking for something challenging? Try this tutorial.

Here’s to (attitude) people seeking (intent).

  • Here’s to enthusiastic people seeking new skills.
  • Here’s to desperate people seeking specifications.
  • Here’s to bored people seeking inspiration.

Going forward

These don’t work as well as the original formula, but prove that the idea is more flexible than the execution. Plan your tags with a logical framework will help focus your content in a meaningful, useful way.